THE CHRONICLE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LITHUANIA
No. 7 1973
LETTER TO A TEACHER
We are both sons of the same Lithuanian nation, both of us bound not only by blood, language, and cultural heritage but also by our concern for the future of our nation. And our nation's future is our children. We both look to them with hope, concern, and with love. I to my children—you to yours, to mine, and to those of many others, who gather in your classroom each school day. It is from what we shall present to these children and from how we shall prepare them for life, into what sort of people we shall mold them—that is what the future of our nation depends on. A great responsibility for their future therefore rests upon our shoulders.
Being aware of this great responsibility and knowing well the duties of a parent, I try to instill in my children from their very infancy those principles which would aid them throughout their lives to be honest, decent, and persons of character. I acquired these principles from my parents, and having tested and confirmed them by my own experience, having examined and pondered them in my own mind, I have committed myself to them according to my conscience. I am conscience-bound to pass on to my children what I consider good and necessary. On the other hand, I have the right to do so. We parents brought our children into this world. We rear them, dress and feed them, and nurse them when they are sick. No one forbids me to clothe my children in one way or another; no one hinders my feeding them the food which, in my opinion, they need. Therefore, no one has the right to forbid, to hamper, or to prevent me from transmitting to my children those intellectual or moral values which, I am convinced, are essential for a human being! I know that one should not lie, or steal, or cheat, or murder. I endeavor to instill these convictions also in my children. I know that it is good to behave decently, to be honest, to love one's neighbor—I want to convince my children of this also. I know further that to persevere as an honorable person, one must strive against one's weaknesses, one's faults, and against worldly temptations. I am preparing my children for this struggle. From my own experience, I am convinced that such a struggle is most successful when a person feels responsible not only to people, but also to God; when he is convinced that his actions and conduct have not only a temporary, a passing, but also an eternal worth; when he heeds not only the laws but also the voice of his conscience. Therefore, I consider it my essential duty to bring my children up religiously, and I do not want anyone to interfere in my performance of this parental obligation. Besides, you, the teacher, have also affirmed that parents have the duty of nurturing their children.
THE RESPONSE TO PETITIONS BY THE FAITHFUL
On April 6, 1973, to the home of Julius Rudys in Steponiškis Village arrived Ilicevičius, an agent of the Miežiškiai Locality police, [Mrs.] R. Smetonienė, chairman of the locality, and Glebavičius and P. Drilinga, workers from the Nevėžis Collective Farm, and one unidentified official.
Smetonienė and Ilicevičius demanded that Rudienė surrender the signed petitions in her possession (see the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 6) threatening that if she did not give them up they would ransack the house. Hoping to avoid a search, Rudienė surrendered the petitions bearing forty signatures, among them those of the Rudys family. The uninvited "guests" presented Rudienė with a summons to appear at the Panevėžys security committee office on April 7. Here she was interrogated by the same "unidentified" official who had been present during the raid at her home. Rudienė was questioned as to who had given her the texts of those petitions. The interrogator told her that this was all nonsense because it interfered with the nurturing of children. He threatened to revoke her parental rights and to make her children wards of the state. Showing her the signed petitions, the interrogator asked Rudienė to name the signers whose signatures were illegible.
A week later Rudienė was again questioned by the security committee about the source of the petitions. The interrogator threatened to start criminal proceedings against her for defaming the Soviet government if she did not reveal where she had obtained the texts of the petitions.
CATHOLICS OF LITHUANIA WRITE
"To: Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR
A Petition by a Group of Believers
"Scathing antireligious propaganda is being waged in the press, at meetings, in schools, on the radio and television, in motion pictures and the theater, which does not hesitate to use distorted facts, unjust accusations, and the ridicule and debasement of believers. Under the guise of antireligious action, even the disparagement of the nation occurs. This is done in the motion picture Herkus Mantas, in which, while propagating atheism, a grievous, historically unconfirmed accusation is made: that Prussians offered human sacrifices to their gods. To degrade and belittle religion in the eyes of the people even vile means are used without hesitation.
"Religion is being condemned while atheism is foisted upon everyone by force. What are the results of this?
"Lenin taught that the truth of ideas, theories, and science is confirmed by practice. It has been almost thirty years since the young generation and the entire population has been educated and directed in the spirit of atheism. In schools during lessons and all extracurricular activities atheism is being propagated, and religion is scorned. Caricatures ridiculing believers are put in showcases in the schools. Students who attend church are interrogated, intimidated, occasionally even punished, as happened to [Miss] Aurelija Račinskaitė, whose deportment grade was lowered and the entry added, 'for attending church.' What has this not overly brief practice of atheistic nurturing shown?
On May 8, 1973, K. Tumėnas, the new commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, summoned the acting bishops and ecclesiastical administrators to a introductory meeting. He was very courteous, promising his aid in all matters, promising to grant permission for the publication of a catechism and the manufacture of devotional goods.
Afterward, showing those present a copy of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 5, he expressed his sorrow that this publication "slandering" Soviet reality was aimed for overseas consumption, that some priests have been involved in this, and that someone would have to suffer for it. Another great "evil" found in the Lithuanian Catholic Church, according to him, was the solicitation of signatures for various petitions.
Commissioner Tumėnas expressed similar thoughts to the priests of the Šiauliai and Joniškis deaneries who had gathered for their first postwar conference.
Monsignor C. Krivaitis, the ecclesiastical administrator of the Vilnius Diocese, administered the sacrament of confirmation at the church in Ratnyčia on July 8, 1973. Although the administering of sacraments is strictly an internal Church matter, it is a matter of great interest to the authorities. Government officials decide where and how many times each year the sacrament of confirmation can be administered and concern themselves with how the ceremonies are organized. For instance, just prior to this ceremony the Rev. A. Andriuškevičius, pastor of the church in Ratnyčia, was summoned to the chairman's office of the Varėna Rayon Soviet of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee for a "chat." Here he was ordered to see to it that the diocesan administrator would be greeted only in the churchyard. The chairman of the rayon executive committee expressed his desire that the least number of people would accompany the administrator.
Early in the morning on July 8, believers began to head for Ratnyčia on foot and in vehicles. Among the early arrivals were governmental "assistants." Along all the roads to Ratnyčia, auto-inspection posts were set up, where cars were stopped, their drivers' documents were inspected, and not infreqently the travelers were asked why and where they were going.
Father Algimantas Keina, pastor of this parish, was testing two little girls in the sacristy on July 10, 1973, to see whether they were ready to receive their First Communion. Unexpectedly Šalna, a Varėna Rayon official and Daugėla, a correspondent, burst into the sacristy. The latter photographed the little girls, and the other shouted:
"It is forbidden to catechize children or to test their knowledge! In fact, it is forbidden to bring children to church. There is only one official school!.. .'*
The woman who had brought the two girls courageously defended the girls' rights:
"We have the right to take our children to confession. We ask the priest to test their knowledge of religion. You don't have the right to forbid this. If you don't allow us to do this publicly, we shall go underground and take our children to church in secret."
"To: M. Gedvilas, Minister of Public Education of the LSSR
The Curia of the Vilnius Archdiocese
A Petition by the Parents of Pupils from the Parish in Ceikiniai, in Ignalina Rayon
"We, the parishioners of the church in Ceikiniai, wrote a petition to the General-Secretary of the CPSU on September 5, 1972, a copy of which was sent to you. On October 10, 1972, you sent us this written reply: 'Replying to your petition, we hereby state that the church cannot interfere in school matters, disrupt the established order, or compel children to perform religious rites. (Signed) M. Gedvilas, Minister of Public Education.'
"We were expecting a more serious answer, particularly from the Minister of Public Education. From all the facts we set forth, it is readily apparent how teachers and even the head of the Department of Education interfere in the internal affairs of the Church, disregarding basic parental rights. But in your response there seems to be the tendency of casting the blame on us, who have been wronged.
"On March 3, 1969, the parents of the pupils from the parish in Ceikiniai wrote to the Ministry of Public Education that [Miss] Kanišauskaitė, a teacher at the school in Valenai, had expelled Verutė and Onutė, daughters of the Galatiltis family, and [Mrs.] Varnienė's daughter, Alma, because the mothers had taken their daughters to church on Christmas Day. In the same petition we wrote that during a religious festival in May, 1967, Jadzevičius, the head of the Ignalina Department of Education, came to Ceikiniai and, summoning our pastor from the church, interrupted the services for some time.
THE ARCHDIOCESE OF KAUNAS
A state of war could be sensed in Kaunas on the occasion of the first anniversary of Romas Kalanta's tragic self-immolation. Policemen were in evidence not only all overLaisvės Alėja [Liberty Avenue] but throughout Kaunas. There were even soldiers dressed in police uniforms. The policemen kept watch "armored" with "bananas" [riot sticks—tr.] and two-way radios. People from government agencies and schools were assigned to help maintain order in the streets. On May 14 the Laisvės Alėja teemed with people, but the police kept ordering them to keep moving.
During the night before May 14, the Lithuanian tricolor flag was flown atop the City of Kaunas Executive Committee building, but it was soon noticed and taken down. (This information was learned from a security agent.) All persons who dared to place flowers at Kalanta's grave or at the site of his self-immolation were arrested. How many persons were arrested is not known. The youth of Kaunas gathered briefly on the central boulevard to commemorate the anniversary of Kalanta's self-immolation. The anniversary passed without any noteworthy incidents.
On June 5, 1973, the People's Court of Kaunas Rayon considered the case of [Mrs.] Dambickienė, who was charged with burglarizing the churches in Babtai and Vandžiogala. [Miss] Martusevičiūtė was the presiding judge. The court's decision stated that Dambickienė's guilt had been fully proven, for she had burglarized the churches in Babtai and Vandžiogala and had in addition stolen from the cemeteries some decorative linens and candles that were affixed to wreaths. All these items were found in her possession during a search. Because the accused was ill with sclerosis and undergoing treatment at the psychiatric hospital, she was not sentenced. The plaintiff in the case was a plain village woman who couldn't even pose a simple question. The man who had been living with the accused for ten years, one Savickas, took part in the court proceedings, not as one who was guilty, but only as a witness.
This trial was not an exceptional occurrence in Soviet court proceedings. In the summer of 1964 the church in Kaišiadorys was burglarized. The burglar was apprehended as he tried to break into the church in Vievis. It became apparent that he was "a man of wide-ranging activities"— he had already burglarized a Russian Orthodox church in Riga.
Presented below is a report made by the pastor of this parish to H.E. Bishop J. Labukas:
"On May 30, 1973, the husband of Petrė Klimienė hired a car and took mo, the pastor of the parish in Girdžiai, to Smalininkai to minister to his critically ill wife, who was in the contagious diseases ward of the hospital. We arrived at 6 p.m. Her husband was permitted to go into the ward to see the sick woman, but they did not allow me, a priest, to enter. The doctor insisted I telephone Jurbarkas and obtain permission from the rayon office. I had to return without administering the sacraments to a seriously ill patient.
"When a condemned man asks for a cigarette or some other item, he is granted his last wish. Yet undergoing treatment here was not a criminal but a loyal Soviet citizen, and she was not shown any human kindness. If her husband was allowed into the ward, why was I refused admittance?
THE DIOCESE OF PANEVĖŽYS
Presented below is Father A. Liesis' appeal to the People's Court of Utena and his statement of defense, which the judge did not allow him to read:
"To: The People's Court of Utena Rayon
"Copies to: Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
of the LSSR
The Commissioner of the Council
For Religious Affairs
The Curia of Panevėžys Diocese
An Appeal by the Rev. A. Liesis, Residing in Daunoriai
Village, Utena Rayon
"On June 29, 1973, the administrative commission of the Utena Rayon Executive Committee stated that on June 12, 1973, I taught catechism to a group of children at the church in Daunoriai. The commission concluded that by doing so I have violated the following resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR: 'The following actions are violations of the law regarding religious cults: the organization and holding of special meetings for children and youths... that are not related to the performance of religious rites' (See the May 12, 1966, decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR 'concerning administrative responsibility for violating the law regarding religious cults.').
"Upon reading this resolution adopted by the Presidium, we can see plainly that it prohibits only those gatherings of children which are not related to the activities (performance) of the cult. Those which are related to the activities of the cult are not prohibited.
During a history lesson at the vocational school, [Mrs.] Morkūnienė, who was lecturing, noticed a chain around [Miss] Danutė Kruopaitė's neck, and demanded that the girl surrender it. Because the girl would not give it to her, the teacher herself took off the chain, which had a small religious medal attached. Someone in the lecture hall stated that [Miss] Genė Dovidonytė and [Miss] Viktorija Jurginaitė were also wearing medals. Rushing over to Dovidonytė, Morkūnienė ripped the chain off the girl's neck and kept it. When she saw that the girl had two more small medals, she demanded that the girl surrender them, and when the girl refused, the teacher grabbed her hand and took them away by force. Then, going to Jurginaitė, Morkūnienė ripped the chain from the girl's neck, but she did not succeed in taking away her medal. After the lecture, Morkūnienė chided the above-mentioned girls for wearing religious medals.
During another lesson Morkūnienė ordered Jurginaitė to answer questions. Barely had the girl begun answering when the teacher interrupted her, saying that she had begun incorrectly. Taking up a book the teacher read a beginning phrase and told the girl to relate the rest. When Jurginaitė explained that she did not have that particular book, the lecturer snapped at her, "If God loves you, He could have, plop, dropped that book from heaven for you." As the girl tried to continue her recitation, the teacher said, "God didn't come to your rescue—you get a grade of 2." It was plain to everyone in the lecture hall why their classmate had received the failing grade.
Dovidonytė asked Morkūnienė to return her medal, but the woman laughed: "It'll be a nice little trinket for the [atheistic] museum." Asked whether she would still wear a medal, the girl replied: "I've always worn one and will continue to do so. I'll buy another one and put it on."
Balsėnai Village resident [Mrs.] Ona Strumilienė erected a cross on her farmstead under one of her windows. When they noticed the cross, collective farm Chairman Daugėla and Party Secretary [Mrs.] Bielskienė called upon Strumilienė and ordered her to either demolish the cross or to erect it beside the barn on the other side of her house.
"I know how a cross should be venerated and where it should be erected," the lady replied.
"We will force you not only to pull down the cross, but also to destroy it," the officials shouted at her.
Several days later rayon police Chief Rusčenkovas arrived and tried to intimidate the sickly elderly lady, demanding that she demolish the cross.
"The cross will stand in its place. As long as I'm alive I will not allow anyone to destroy it. I didn't erect it so that you would destroy it."
"To: The Curia of Vilkaviškis Diocese
A Statement by the Rev. Albinas Deltuva,
pastor of the parish in Veisiejai
"While Bishop L. Povilonis was administering the sacrament of confirmation at Veisiejai on July 28-29 of this year, several incidents occurred which scandalized the believers.
"With the excuse that it was harvest time, the days on which the sacrament of confirmation was to be administered were declared to be working days in the rayon. To local collective farms and state farms was given the order that they were not to provide any means of transportation. On Sunday it rained. The harvesting ceased. Still, inspection points on the roads to Veisiejai permitted only buses and private means of transport to pass through. All other vehicles and wagons carrying people were turned back. That was why only eleven persons from neighboring parishes in Byelorussia who desired to receive the sacrament of confirmation were able to reach Veisiejai.
"The believers have noticed that of the many Saturdays and Sundays occurring during harvest time, only the days during which the sacrament of confirmation was to be administered were declared working days.
On May 4, 1973, Father Gvidonas Dovydaitis, curate of this parish, sent the following written explanation to the vice-chairman of the Šakiai Rayon Executive Committee, to its chief of security, and to the committee's secretary:
"On April 24, 1973, I was summoned by the Šakiai Rayon Executive Committee to the office of Vice-chairwoman D. Noreikienė, who, together with the chief of security and the secretary of the Party organization, berated me.
"On the following day, Father J. Žemaitis, Dean of Šakiai, was summoned to appear before the rayon executive committee. He was told he was not to allow me to go to Plokščiai to perform religious rites. Aside from that, they threatened that they would forbid me to preach.
"Although, as ordered by the rayon officials, I had hurriedly submitted a written explanation, it was not detailed. I therefore wish to answer more fully all of the charges against me, which I consider unjust:
1. I was charged with preaching a sermon to the faithful during a retreat on the evening of April 16 of this year at Plokščiai.